The Global Campaign to Stop Animal Sacrifice
SUDESH KUMAR FOUNDATION
In Nepal there is not much respite for animals destined to be sacrificed. Here is a summary of sacrificial events held in Nepal throughout the year (courtesy of Stop Animal Sacrifice).
Maghesakrati – This festival celebrates the first day of the Nepali month Magha (Mid January) when Winter ends and Summer is heralded. Thousands of Hindu devotees dip in the river. In Talukchandani village in Nuwakot district fights between oxens are organized. Although the oxens are not made to fight till death they often get badly injured. No arrangements for medical treatment are made. In the 2008 fight one of the oxens received a deep wound while the other fractured its leg.
Blood drinking festival – Early March the first in a series of yak blood drinking festivals is organized in Nangi, Myagdi district. In April/May and June/July similar happenings take place in lower Mustang. During the event the jugular veins of yaks are pierced and blood is collected in cups. Hundreds of people buy the blood, believed to have medicinal qualities. The yaks recover but it is a stressful event for the animals.
Chaite Dasain – This festival is also called ‘small Dasain’ as it lasts only for 2 days while Dasain in September/October lasts for 9 days. Animal sacrifices, especially of water buffaloes and goats, are an important feature of the festival. Blood sacrifices are carried out in Durga temples across the country. Both during Dasain and Chaite Dasain the Nepal army conducts sacrifices at Hanuman Dhoka palace in Kathmandu and the guardhouse in Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
Godhe Jatra – During the Horse Festival a grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel, in the heart of Kathmandu. Another event takes place in Bal Kumari area in Patan where a horse is intoxicated with spirits. An equally drunk person in a traditional Newari attire rides it. People shout to frighten and enrage the animal until it runs madly with the rider clinging to it.
Bisket Jatra/New Year – During Bisket for seven days chariots representing Bhairava and Goddess Bhadrakali are pulled through Bhaktapur. On the 3rd day panch bali (five animals) involves the sacrifice of a chicken, duck, goat, sheep and buffalo. On the 4th day the government sends state offerings: 2 sacrificial goats. On New Year day farmers sacrifice female chicken that have not yet laid eggs.
Budha Jyanti/Rana Kul Puja – The Nepali month Jyestha (May/June) is the month for Newar and Rana clan pujas which involve the sacrifice of countless goats and ducks. The Rana clan puja is held on Buddha’s birthday and sees the killing of hundreds of goats.
Panauti festival – Panauti is located 30 km outside of Kathmandu. Its festival is apalanquin and chariot festival. The 9 day festival starts in Jyestha (May-June) and ends in Ashad (June-July). On the 5th day Panauti residents sacrifice male goats and ducks
Navadurga/Bhagasti –The nine goddesses or Nava Durga are worshipped with masked dances which begin in Dashain in October and end in Bhagasti in June. Countless animals are sacrificed during rituals accompanying the dances. The dancers get intoxicated on the fresh blood spewing from the necks of dying animals as well as alcohol. The animals who are killed in the presence of the public and whose blood is drank include goats, ducks and buffaloes.
Some of the extreme forms of cruelty in the Tantric rituals include the removal of the heart of a live piglet, the biting off of the head of a cock (see September) and the eating of blood-stained offerings.
The dances are also performed in the major places of Kathmandu Valley and Kavre district. In Lalitpur district the dances are organized in Patan and villages such as Pharping, Khokana, Harasiddhi. In Kathmandu district the dances are performed in Sankhu and Pharping. The number of animal sacrifices varies from place to place. Moderately wealthy families may offer panchabali (five species of animals). Elaborate sacrifices takes place in Theco, Khokana and Jala, more than fifty ducks and twenty-five goats are offered in just one of the rituals.
Khokana festival - Khokana festival is held every year in August, the day after Gai Jatra. A 5-6 month old live goat is thrown in a pond close to Rudrayani temple in Khokana, a village in the south of Kathmandu Valley. Nine young men enter the pond and start to tear the goat apart by grasping its legs, ears, hoof or tail. The one who manages to kill the goat is the ‘hero’ and leads the Shinkali dance which is held afterwards.
Dasain – Dasain festivals is Nepal’s largest festivals which is celebrated during the month of Kartik (late September and early October). During the Dashain festivals (Dasain and Chaite Dasain – see March), priests perform various Tantric rituals to Goddess Durga Bhawani, and the Living Goddess Kumari. Dasain sees the greatest numbers of animals sacrificed. During Kalrati, in Taleju Temple, the government publicly beheads 54 buffaloes and 54 he-goats, followed by the killing of 108 buffaloes by the Nepal Army. The event draws many devotees and is screened on national Television. At the same time in the palace in Gurkha 108 buffaloes are being beheaded. This marks the start of mass sacrifice by the people across the country; it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of goats are being sacrificed during Dasain as well as an unknown number of buffaloes, ducks, chicken, birds, et cetera.
Dasain Bhaktapur - At Taleju temple in Bhaktapur 25 buffaloes and some 20 goats are killed by cutting their throats and spilling blood over all the images. Only then they are beheaded. The temple area is soaked with blood. The heads of the animals are displayed around the image of Taleju.
During the Navadurga dances, on the ninth day of Dasain, people feed a water buffalo drunk on rice‑beer. The staggering animal is chase by a crowd of people it to Brahmayani where nine Goddesses are installed at the night. The priest performs a Tantric worship to sacrifice the drunk buffalo believed to be possessed by a demon called Mahi-sa-shur. The nine Navadurga dancers receive a fountain of blood in their mouth directly from the vein of the buffalo.
In one ritual a dancer bites off the head of a cock and drinks the blood that spews out.
Another ritual is the chasing of a sacrificial pig, stolen by groups of young men and boys. The youngsters run around carrying the squeaking pig under their jackets and passing it quickly from one to the other. The animal is released after two hours after which a dancer grabs it. He tears the heart of the live baby pig out after which it is eaten raw. As the dancers are forbidden to use knives or instruments the lead dancer tears the skin under the piglet’s forelegs with his fingernails, insert his hand and pulls out the heart. The dancers drink blood from the piglet’s open chest.
Indrayani – This festival is held during the new moon night at the Indrayani temple at Swayambhunath. During the previous night three buffaloes are slaughtered in the temple. The first buffalo’s throat is cut and its blood sprayed all over the temple and the goddess images. The other animals’ heads are cut off. The head, heart and lungs of one buffalo are burned in the sacred fire. Climax of the festival is the sacrifice of a pair of live snakes by throwing them into a sacrificial fire. Apart from snakes pairs of live sparrows, grasshoppers and fishes are burned alive while others are released by throwing them into the air. Serpent sacrifices are known from three other places in Nepal.
Gadhimai – This festival held in Bara district takes place every five years in November. It is known as one of the worst forms of animal cruelty in the world. In a span of 2 days some 200,000 animals are sacrificed. 20,000 buffaloes are publicly beheaded by licensed butchers who randomly hack the animals to death. In a span of 5 km around the Gadhimai temple anyone can kill any kind of animal in whatever manner. After 2 days the place has turned into a foul smelling marsh land covered in blood and animal remains.
Elephant polo – The World Elephant Polo Championship takes place in Nepal annually from late November till early December. Elephant polo may seem a fun game but remember that elephants do not naturally ride bicycles, balance on balls or play polo. In order to force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers typically use cruel training methods that inflict pain and cause fear.
The Global Campaign to Stop Animal Sacrifice
SUDESH KUMAR FOUNDATION